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Whether we like it or not, life is full of ups and downs. The human experience is often peppered with uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences and emotions.
Self-compassion presents an opportunity to understand, acknowledge, and transform personal suffering through self-kindness, mindfulness, and an understanding that adversity is an inevitable part of life.
When we learn how to practice compassion from within, we begin to care more about ourselves and strive to alleviate our own suffering. We learn to be less self-critical and instead treat ourselves with kindness when faced with undesirable experiences.
The integration of compassion-based approaches within the field of psychology and psychotherapy is increasing exponentially. Alongside this expanding clinical interest, it has been necessary to develop tools by which self-compassion and other related constructs can be tested and measured.
In the following article, we will look at how we can best test self-compassion, the structure and validity of Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Scale, and alternative methods by which self-compassion can be assessed.
This article contains:
- How Can We Best Test Self-Compassion?
- What is the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS)? (Incl. PDF)
- The Short Form Scale
- A Look at How Scoring Works
- Pros and Cons: A Look at the Validity
- The Work of Brené Brown and Kristin Neff
- A Look at the Self-Compassion Inventory
- What Other Assessment Tools are Available?
- 8 Other Self-Compassion Tests, Quizzes & Questionnaires
- A Take-Home Message
How Can We Best Test Self-Compassion?
Testing self-compassion and introducing related practices to your clients can be enormously healing: by developing compassion for themselves, they can more easily move through difficult material, forgive themselves and others, and become more productive and happy human beings (Neff, 2015). Understanding vulnerabilities and practicing more self-kindness is at the very heart of self-compassion.
So how can we best test self-compassion? Despite the growing enthusiasm of clinicians and researchers, there remains an ongoing debate in regard to the true definitions of compassion and self-compassion, and whether the two should be considered different constructs (Strauss, Lever Taylor, Gu, Kuyken, Baer, Jones, & Cavanagh, 2016).
This uncertainty has resulted in a number of measures that test compassion and self-compassion from various psychological standpoints. For instance, the Relational Compassion Scale (Hacker, 2008) measures self-compassion as a subscale of compassion for others, whereas the Self-Compassion Scale (Neff, 2003a) is a method that measures individual differences in compassion towards oneself.
The most commonly adopted definition of self-compassion is that of Neff (2003a) who conceptualizes self-compassion from a Buddhist perspective as having three main components: kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. As such, many tests of self-compassion include these three components to some degree in order to measure the construct.
What is the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS)? (Incl. PDF)
The Self-Compassion Scale (SCS; Neff, 2003a) was the first tool of its kind and specifically developed as a method by which individual differences in self-compassion could be assessed.
In its early form, the SCS was hypothesized to be a three-factor scale that included self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. However, throughout its development it became apparent that the scale should have six factors – the three core components mentioned above and their “negative” opposite constructs of self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification – which represents compassionate versus uncompassionate behavior and a self-compassionate frame of mind (Neff, 2003b).
The self-report 26-item SCS explicitly represents the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors associated with the three components of self-compassion and includes items that measure how often people respond to feelings of inadequacy or suffering with each of six components:
Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than punishing ourselves with self-criticism (Neff, 2003a). We cannot always achieve exactly what we want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration, and self-criticism.
Self-compassionate individuals are those who recognize that imperfection and failure are inevitable, and thus tend to be more gentle with themselves when confronted with distressing or unpleasant experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of self-imposed ideals (Neff, 2015).
Common Humanity vs. Isolation
A self-compassionate individual recognizes that challenges and personal failures are something we all share. They are part of the human experience. In this way, self-compassion helps us understand that suffering is something we all go through and thus helps negate feelings of isolation (Neff, 2003a).
Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification
Self-compassion is intimately tied to the practice of mindfulness; that is paying attention to the present moment with complete acceptance of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time (Bishop, Lau, Shapiro, Carlson, Anderson, Carmody, 2004). Through self-compassion, negative emotions are accepted rather than suppressed, denied or exaggerated.
The Self-Compassion Scale has been used in a multitude of studies to examine the effects and impact that self-compassion can have on a number of areas. Results from a selection of investigations utilizing the SCS indicate that self-compassion:
- Improves self-reported emotional well-being in adolescents and adults (Bluth & Blanton, 2012).
- Reduces self-judgment, feelings of isolation, and over-identification (Neff, 2016).
- Mediates the impact of body dissatisfaction and unfavorable social comparisons on psychological quality of life (Duarte, Ferreira, Trindade, & Pinto-Gouveia, 2015).
- Can assist in the reduction of compassion fatigue and burnout in practitioners and caregivers (Beaumont, Durkin, Martins, & Carson, 2015).
- Significantly reduces shame-proneness, irrational beliefs, and symptoms of social anxiety (Candea & Tatar, 2018).
- Is negatively associated with procrastination and maladaptive perfectionism (Barnard & Curry, 2011).
- Results in more motivation to change for the better, try harder to learn, and avoid repeating past mistakes particularly with health-related behaviors such as sticking to a diet, quitting smoking, or starting a fitness regimen (Germer & Neff, 2013).
The Self-Compassion Scale is a completely free resource and has been translated into 18 languages including; Dutch, French, German, Greek, Turkish, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese.
The Short Form Scale
While the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) is undoubtedly the most commonly utilized measure of self-compassion, concerns were raised that the 26-item SCS was too burdensome or semantically complex for use by some individuals (Kemppainen et al., 2013).
A shortened yet structurally equivalent 12-item Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form (SCS-SF) (Raes, Pommier, Neff, & Van Gucht, 2011) was developed as a way to reduce this burden and offer researchers an opportunity to gather perspectives from individuals who would be unable or unwilling to take the original long-form version.
The SCS-SF was developed by selecting two items from each of the original six SCS subscales that showed the highest correlations with the overall scale and assesses various aspects of self-compassion including one’s sense of a common humanity, mindfulness, and self-kindness.
While the short-form scale represents a valid alternative to the long-form SCS when looking at overall self-compassion scores, it has been found to be less reliable when the area of interest lies within the subscales and their negative counterparts (Raes, Pommier, Neff, & Van Gucht, 2011). If particular information on each dimension of compassion is required, the long form is recommended.
A Look at How Scoring Works
Statements on the Self-Compassion Scale are scored on a Likert scale of 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always).
The collected data can be utilized in two ways:
1. To calculate an overall compassion score – Items representing uncompassionate responses to inadequacy or suffering (the self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification subscales) are reverse-coded only when calculating the overall compassion score. In this way, higher scores represent a lower frequency of these responses.
For instance, the statement ’I can be a bit cold-hearted towards myself when I’m experiencing suffering’ is related to self-judgment and as such, a response of ‘almost always’ is scored as 1 rather than 5 when calculating an overall compassion score.
In order to calculate a total compassion score, take the mean score of each subscale (after reverse scoring where necessary) and compute a total mean.
2. To calculate individual subscale scores – If you plan to examine the subscales separately, do not reverse the scoring of any item. Scoring on the subscales of these items should only be reversed when calculating the overall compassion score.
Scoring the SCS Long-Form
Coding Key – statements for each subscale within the SCS are numbered as follows:
Self-Kindness Items: 5, 12, 19, 23, 26
Self-Judgment Items: 1, 8, 11, 16, 21 (reverse score when calculating overall self-compassion)
Common Humanity Items: 3, 7, 10, 15
Isolation Items: 4, 13, 18, 25 (reverse score when calculating overall self-compassion)
Mindfulness Items: 9, 14, 17, 22
Over-identified Items: 2, 6, 20, 24 (reverse score when calculating overall self-compassion)
It is important to remember that higher averages for self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification subscales indicate less self-compassion before reverse-coding and more after reverse-coding.
Scoring the SCS Short-Form
Coding Key – statements for each subscale within the SCS-SF are numbered as follows:
Self-Kindness Items: 2, 6
Self-Judgment Items: 11, 12 (reverse score when calculating overall self-compassion)
Common Humanity Items: 5, 10
Isolation Items: 4, 8 (reverse score when calculating overall self-compassion)
Mindfulness Items: 3, 7
Over-identified Items: 1, 9 (reverse score when calculating overall self-compassion)
As with the long-form version, subscale scores are determined by calculating the mean of subscale item responses. In order to compute overall self-compassion, reverse score the negative subscale items of self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification and then calculate the total mean.
Interpretation of Scores
As a rough guide, average scores for the Self-Compassion Scale are around 3.0 on the 1-5 Likert scale, a score of 1-2.5 indicates low self-compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates moderate, and 3.5-5.0 is an indication of high self-compassion (Neff, 2003a).
Scores from each subscale can predict a number of potential outcomes. For instance, a high score on the self-kindness subscale is a significant predictor of happiness while a low score is predictive of anxiety. Higher scores in the mindfulness subscale indicate greater life satisfaction while over-identification is an indicator of depression and isolation is a strong predictor for stress (Neff, 2015).
In essence, higher self-compassionate behaviors are directly related to increased positive states of mind like happiness and life-satisfaction, while higher uncompassionate behaviors are directly related to negative mind-states like depression, stress, and anxiety.
While the reliability of the subscales on the short form is weaker than they are for the full version, the correlation in overall self-compassion scores between the two versions is extremely high (Neff, 2015).
Pros and Cons: A Look at the Validity
The Self-Compassion Scale has been extensively applied in clinical and health psychology research in order to investigate the protective influence of self-compassion on psychological well-being. Although generally accepted as a reliable and valid tool to measure self-compassion, the SCS has received criticism over whether or not the factor structure generalizes across populations (Williams, Dalgleish, Karl & Kuyken, 2014).
Multiple studies have been carried out in order to test the validity and reliability of the SCS when translated into other languages and applied to different cultures. For instance, results from a general population sample study in Germany advocated against the use of a total score across all SCS items but found that independent subscale scores captured a positive factor and a negative factor when administering the German SCS (Coroiu, Kwakkenbos, Moran, Thombs, Albani & Bourkas, 2018).
Research by Deniz, Kesici, & Sumer (2008) demonstrated that the Turkish version of the SCS is a valid and reliable measure. Similarly, Kotsou & Leys (2016) found that the French version of the SCS is a valid tool for French-speaking researchers and clinicians to effectively assess individual differences in self-compassion in French-speaking populations. Additionally, the psychometric properties and internal reliability scores of the French SCS were found to be significant.
As with the German SCS study mentioned above, other researchers have questioned the reliability of the SCS to calculate an overall self-compassion score – particularly when it includes items representing a lack of self-compassion.
Concerns have been raised that by measuring ‘negative’ components of compassion the SCS is actually measuring self-criticism, rumination, and social isolation, rather than self-compassion. Muris and Petrocchi (2017) suggested that the use of the SCS total score, which includes reverse scored negative subscales, may result in an inflated negative relationship between self-compassion and symptoms of psychopathology.
In response to these criticisms, Neff, Whittaker, & Karl (2017) examined the factor structure of the SCS in four distinct populations; undergraduate students, adults recruited online, meditators, and a fourth group who experienced a recurrent major depressive disorder.
Results from the study indicated that an overall self-compassion factor can effectively explain at least 90% of item variance across student, community, and clinical populations – providing support for the use of a total SCS score to represent overall trait levels of self-compassion.
The Self-Compassion Scale has also received criticism for issues related to psychometric validity: does the scale measure what it purports to measure? Costa et al. (2015) examined the psychometric properties of the SCS by testing the factorial validity and invariance of: (a) a six-factor model (self-kindness, self-judgment, common humanity, isolation, mindfulness, and over-identification); (b) a higher order factor model (self-compassion); and (c) a two-factor model (self-compassionate attitude and self-critical attitude).
Findings from the confirmatory factorial analyses indicated that while coherent intercorrelation among the six subscales could not be explained by a single higher-order latent variable, the two-factor model (self-compassionate attitude and self-critical attitude) showed good internal consistencies, and each factor is better explained by its own observed items rather than by items from a different factor.
The conflicting evidence regarding the factor structure of the SCS has led to disparate views on the relative contribution of positive and negative items to the theoretical components of self-compassion (Pfattheiche, Geiger, Hartung, Weiss, & Schindle, 2017). Put simply, do the negative items within the SCS genuinely reflect the absence of self-compassion?
Other researchers have advocated the use of two independent subscale scores to capture the positive and negative group factors, advising against of the estimation of a single total score (Brenner, Heath, Vogel, & Credé, 2017).
While critics remain, the Self-Compassion Scale and other qualitative self-report measures provide useful data to researchers and to practitioners in terms of case conceptualization and treatment planning. How a client responds to the questionnaire can assist in the identification of treatment strategies and techniques.
Furthermore, client’s responses on the SCS can be utilized during the debriefing process to introduce concepts that the client may not have considered, such as the idea of common humanity or being able to take perspective of how they behave in their own relationship with themselves (LeJeune, 2016).
- The Self-Compassion scale is a simple tool to use, administer, and score. It has been translated into 18 languages and is freely available for use by researchers, practitioners, students, and the general public.
- The SCS has shown internal consistency and test-retest reliability, significant positive correlations with social connectedness, emotional intelligence, and life satisfaction, and significant negative correlations with self-criticism, perfectionism, depression, and anxiety (Baer, 2006).
- The shortened SCS instrument has adequate internal consistency and a robust correlation with the SCS-Long form (Raes et al., 2011).
- The SCS as currently written and analyzed is not only useful for facilitating research, but also for clinicians trying to help their clients learn to be more self-compassionate (Neff, 2016).
- Several studies utilizing the SCS demonstrate good predictive validity, with positive correlations between self-compassion and mental health signs. For instance, high levels of self-compassion predict happiness, optimism and life satisfaction while lower self-compassion is a predictor of depression and anxiety (Neff & Vonk, 2009).
- Despite the scale’s extensive use, some consider the limited understanding of how the six components of the SCS interact with each other as problematic. Cleare, Gumley, & Cleare (2018) suggested that more robust analyses are required in order to understand if all the factors contribute equally to a person’s compassion or if one area is potentially more important than another.
- Potential incongruities in the factor structures found by previous researchers indicate that the structure of the SCS could be potentially unstable and would benefit from further analysis. Neff herself suggested that the higher-order structure may not be the most appropriate conceptualization of compassion (Neff, 2015).
- The SCS may be better suited to measuring the six components of self-compassion separately than to measuring the overarching construct of self-compassion (Williams, Dalgleish, Karl, & Kuyken, 2014).
- There are some concerns regarding the validity of the SCS translations in certain cultures. A recent study measuring self-compassion in Chinese Buddhists concluded that the six-factor model was not replicable and suggested that the Western conceptualization of self-compassion is theoretically distinct from the ideas of the East (Zeng, Wei, Oei, & Lui, 2016).
The Work of Brené Brown and Kristin Neff
Brené Brown is a researcher, scholar, and best-selling author who has spent over a decade investigating vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her TEDx talk – The Power of Vulnerability – has been viewed over 35 million times and is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world. For Brown, Kristin Neff’s research was a key piece to understanding that the best way to support ourselves in difficult times is through self-compassion (Brown, 2012).
Brown & Neff are considered by many as the most influential shame, self-criticism and self-compassion researchers to date (Burton, 2016). While the two have collaborated on a number of projects, for the purpose of this article we will focus on their contributions to research on shame and its relationship to self-compassion.
Shame is defined as a negative emotion associated with depression, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder and problematic outcomes for well-being (Cibich, Woodyatt, & Wenzel, 2016). For Brown (2007), shame is a debilitating inner experience elicited by the negative self-appraisal of one’s entire self and is a direct hindrance to self-compassion – corroding the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.
Despite the inevitability of shame, hope can be found in the guise of shame resilience. According to Shame Resilience Theory (SRT: Brown, 2006), we can learn to move through feelings of shame by engaging in the examination of the self, awareness of cultural context, and intentionality in interpersonal relationships.
Brown proposed that practicing shame resilience takes the form of “reaching out” to others with empathy and non-judgment. This ability to demonstrate empathy for others is inherently linked to the practice of self-compassion, meaning that we must first act compassionately toward our own struggles in order to express compassion to others (Brown, 2006).
Self-compassion is intricately connected to the practice of shame resilience. According to Neff (2009) one of the key characteristics of self-compassion is that it is not dependent upon success or achievement. Consequently, it eliminates critical self-evaluation – a process inherent in shame – because it is not based on self-evaluations, performance, or comparisons to others.
Shame resilience is most commonly measured using the Self-Compassion Scale and the SRT draws directly from Neff’s self-compassion framework – viewing self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness as the primary components of self-compassion.
Brown hypothesized that shame requires three things to grow exponentially – secrecy, silence, and judgment – and that the three elements of self-compassion help counteract the three elements of shame in the following ways (Brown, 2014):
Mindfulness: allows us to be aware of our experience of shame and not over-identify with it or avoid it. In essence, mindfulness addresses the silence of shame.
Common humanity: addresses the secrecy of shame; we are not alone in how we feel. Understanding that shame is an inherently human trait encourages a connection with others.
Self-kindness: addresses the judgment of shame. Rather than talking to ourselves harshly, we treat ourselves with the care, understanding, and support we need during the experience of shame.
According to Brené Brown (2010), the acknowledgment of personal vulnerabilities such as shame is the key to authenticity; that is the continued practice of letting go of who we’re supposed to be and embracing who we really are. Through self-compassion we can learn to embrace these vulnerabilities rather than allowing them to affect us negatively.
A Look at the Self-Compassion Inventory
While the Self-Compassion Scale was developed as a way to represent the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors associated with the various components of self-compassion, the inventory does not explicitly mention the term ‘self-compassion’. Rather, self-compassion levels are inferred by the examination of responses to the 26 items designed to tap into the three main components of the construct (Kirkpatrick et al., 2007).
The inventory includes statements that measure how often people respond to feelings of inadequacy or suffering with:
Self-Kindness -‘I’m kind to myself when I’m experiencing suffering.’, ‘I’m tolerant of my own flaws and inadequacies.’
Self-Judgment – ‘I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.’, ‘I’m intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.’
Common Humanity – ‘I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.’, ‘When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.’
Isolation – ‘When I think about my inadequacies it tends to make me feel more separate and cut off from the rest of the world.’, ‘When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.’
Mindfulness – ‘When something painful happens I try to take a balanced view of the situation.’, ‘When something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.’
Over-Identification – ‘When I’m feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.’, ‘When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.’
Wording is an important concern with any scale so that it can measure a particular construct over and above the way items are worded. Thus, it is crucial to give careful consideration to these effects in order to properly measure the area of interest (Roszkowski & Soven, 2010).
Statements on the SCS representing a lack of self-compassion are written in such a way that negates confusion from negatively worded items.
For instance, a self-judgment statement written as “I am not disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies,” would require a response of “almost never” from individuals who are high in self-judgment. Thus, items representing uncompassionate behavior are written in a manner that makes them easier to respond to, “I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies”.
Some researchers have advised that the SCS should not measure uncompassionate behavior in its assessment of self-compassion, instead indicating that it should only include items representing compassionate behavior; thus proposing a two-factor model for the SCS (Muris & Petrocci, 2017).
However, Neff argues that conceptualizing the SCS in bi-dimensional terms would greatly limit its ability to explore the differential contribution that the various components of self-compassion make to wellbeing.
Referring to the three positive components as “self-compassion” and the three negative components as “self-criticism” collapses important distinctions between how people emotionally respond to suffering with kindness or self-judgment, cognitively understand their suffering with a sense of common humanity or isolation and pay attention to their suffering mindfully or in an over-identified manner (Neff, 2015).
What Other Assessment Tools are Available?
While the SCS (Neff, 2003a) measures self-compassion as its primary objective, a number of other scales have been developed to measure self-compassion as a subscale of other constructs. A selection of alternative assessment tools designed to explore and measure the relationship between compassion, self-compassion, and other psychological processes are detailed below.
The Self-Compassion Scale for Children (SCS-C)
Between the ages of 8 and 12, there is a marked increase in self-awareness, self-reflection, and perspective-taking abilities that contribute to the development of a sense of identity and self-concept (Butler, 1998). While the Self-Compassion Scale and the SCS-Short Form have been validated for use with individuals over 14 years, missing from the field was a way to measure self-compassion in children.
The SCS-C is a measure of self-compassion for children under the age of 14. Adapted from the SCS-SF (Raes et al. 2011) the scale consists of twelve self-report items aimed at assessing self-compassion in children and addresses each of the six components within Neff’s definition of self-compassion.
The SCS-C has been adapted for use with younger populations primarily by altering the language so that it is more age appropriate. For example, a statement such as, ‘When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy’ was changed to ‘When I fail at something important to me, I feel like I’m not good enough’. Responses are measured on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (Never) to 5 (Always).
The Shortened Self-Compassion Scale for Adolescents
The S-SCS-A (S-SCS-A; Muris, 2016) was developed in order to address the items on the SCS that were considered as being too abstract and obscure for younger participants – especially those with a lower educational level.
Perceived abstract language within the SCS was modified and includes the positive subscales of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness as found in Neff’s SCS. Muris et al. (2016) found preliminary evidence of the scale’s reliability and validity when used with adolescents between the ages of 12–17.
The Quiet Ego Scale
The quiet ego refers to a self-identity that transcends egoism and identifies with a less defensive, balanced stance toward the self and others (Wayment, Bauer, & Sylaska, 2015). The QES (QES; Wayment, Bauer, & Sylaska, 2015) is a 14-item self-report measure and while it used primarily to measure a number of characteristics such as resilience, coping efficacy, and other indices of well-being, it also measures self-compassion as a subscale within the larger construct of self-identity.
The components of common humanity, mindfulness and self-kindness are measured by the scale.
The Relational Compassion Scale
This 16-item self-report scale (RCS; Hacker, 2008) consists of four subscales which measure respondents’ 1) self-compassion, 2) compassion for others, 3) beliefs about how compassionate other people are to each other, and 4) beliefs about how compassionate other people are to them.
Items comprising the self-compassion subscale assess emotional resonance and acting to alleviate personal suffering and have been positively correlated with the Self-Compassion Scale (Hacker, 2008; Neff, 2003a). It should be noted, however, that this correlation is weaker than might be expected given the two methods are supposed to measure the same construct (Strauss, Lever Taylor, Gu, Kuyken, Baer, Jones, & Cavanagh, 2016).
Self-Other Four Immeasurables
The SOFI (SOFI; Kraus & Sears, 2009) is a 16-item instrument designed to assess the four ‘immeasurable’ qualities at the heart of Buddhist teachings, namely: compassion, loving-kindness, joy, and acceptance toward both self and others. Rated on a five-point Likert scale, the SOFI scale consists of four distinct subscales: positive qualities toward the self, positive qualities toward others, negative qualities toward the self and negative qualities toward others.
Examination of reliability and validity showed high internal consistency for the subscales as well as strong concurrent, discriminant, and construct validity. According to Kraus & Sears (2009), while the measurement of self-compassion is relatively understudied, the development of the SOFI scale provides a further method of assessment for use within research on mindfulness, positive psychology, and social psychology.
8 Other Self-Compassion Tests, Quizzes & Questionnaires
You can find an online version of the Self-Compassion Scale (Neff, 2003a) here. While this version is identical in content to the SCS for researchers, the scoring and reverse-scoring for statements are done for you. On completion of the test, you will be provided with scores on self-kindness, self-judgment, common humanity, isolation, mindfulness, an overall self-compassion score, and guidance on how to interpret your results.
This 12-item quiz has been adapted from the original Self-Compassion Scale. You are encouraged to think honestly about how you view yourself and not to think about how others might see you. On completion of the quiz, you will be given a breakdown of how self-compassionate you are from low to high and provided with advice on how best to cultivate more compassion towards yourself.
This brief self-compassion quiz consists of 12 ‘yes’ or ‘no’ statements related to indicators of self-compassion, such as ‘When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.’ Developed from the original SCS, this quiz provides instructions on how to score your answers and will provide you with a general understanding of where you lie in terms of self-compassion.
A key component of self-compassion is the absence of self-criticism. High self-judgment and self-criticism are negatively correlated with both compassion for others and compassion for oneself, in fact, we become less compassionate to ourselves and others if we judge ourselves too harshly (Beaumont, Durkin, Martin, & Carson, 2016). This 21-item Functions of Self-Criticizing/Attacking Scale (Gilbert, Clark, Hempel, Miles, & Irons, 2004) was designed to measure the functions of self-criticism – why people think they self-criticize and self-attack.
This 22-item Self-Criticizing & Self-Reassuring Scale test developed by Gilbert, et al. (2004) is designed to measure self-criticism, self-judgment, and the ability to self-reassure when things go wrong.
The process of self-forgiveness has transformative powers in relation to self-compassion and responses to negative experiences. A person who forgives themselves has the capacity to change the orientation and intrusiveness of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from negative to neutral, or positive (Thompson & Synder, 2003).
The Heartland Forgiveness Scale is an 18-item self-report questionnaire developed as a method of measuring individual dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations beyond anyone’s control. The HFS consists of three six-item subscales (Forgiveness of Self, Forgiveness of Others, and Forgiveness of Situations).
The Compassionate Engagement and Action Scales are a set of three scales designed to measure self-compassion, the ability to be compassionate to others and the ability to receive compassion. Statements within each of these scales reflect six compassion attributes: sensitivity to suffering, sympathy, non-judgment, empathy, distress tolerance and care for wellbeing (Gilbert, Catarino, Duarte, Matos, Kolts, Stubbs, & Basran, 2017).
This short self-acceptance quiz is based on the concept that one of the first steps in cultivating more self-compassion is to accept what is – both within yourself and in the outer world. Developed by psychologist Rick Hanson, this quiz is designed to give you a score related to how realistic your understanding is in terms of your inner (and outer) world.
Created by pioneering self-compassion researcher, author, and scholar, Dr. Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion.org is an all-in-one resource for self-compassion research, practices, and exercises. Self-compassion can be considered the heart of mindfulness; it is self-acceptance in the face of sorrow and pain (Neff & Germer, 2017). Recognizing this relationship, Neff provides an array of free resources and exercises that overlap with some commonly used mindfulness techniques.
Here we will look at just a small sample of the meditations, exercises, and other resources you can find on Self-Compassion.org.
Self-Compassion.org provides seven audio-guided compassion meditations, each of which can be downloaded or played directly from the website. The meditations included have been shown to improve self-compassion, mindfulness and life satisfaction, (Neff & Germer, 2017). A selection of meditations guided by Neff is detailed below:
- Affectionate Breathing Meditation (21 minutes) – Often included in mindfulness practices, the affectionate breathing meditation connects feelings of affection and kindness with the act of slow, deep, mindful breathing. The practice of this meditation encourages participants to savor the gentle rhythm of breathing and to feel how each breath nourishes and relaxes the body (Gilbert, 2017). This mindful and affectionate breathing may also assist in reducing emotional reactivity to repetitive thoughts (Feldman, Greeson, & Senville, 2010).
- Compassionate Body Scan (24 minutes) – During the body scan attention is sequentially guided through the entire body, observing with non-judgmental awareness the sensations in each region and ending with an awareness of the body as a complete whole (Holzel et al., 2010). Participants are encouraged to bring attention to different areas of the body, allowing any tension to soften and bringing kindness and curiosity to the sensations experienced.
- Loving-Kindness Meditation (20 minutes) – Loving-Kindness Meditation comes from the Buddhist tradition of ‘Metta Bhavana’ and is designed to increase feelings of social connectedness and compassion for one’s self and others (Feldman, Greeson, & Senville, 2010). Loving-kindness is unconditional and inclusive; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” compassion or not, rather it extends to include all living beings with no expectations of anything in return.
Additionally, Neff includes eight carefully selected self-compassion exercises to help develop and incorporate self-compassion into daily activities. While it is unlikely that any one practice will work for everyone, the range of exercises available on Self-Compassion.org ensures there are practices to suit individual differences.
- The Self-Compassion Break – The self-compassion break is a method by which participants can learn to focus attention on the important aspects of compassion through mindfulness (this is a temporary moment of suffering), common humanity (suffering is an inevitable part of life), and self-kindness (may I be kind to myself). Practicing the self-compassion break can help replace a self-critical voice with a more compassionate one that lets go of ruminations (Germer & Neff, 2015).
- Changing your critical self-talk – Self-criticism is negatively correlated with self-compassion (Beaumont et al., 2016) thus learning to change and soften self-critical thoughts is an integral part of cultivating compassion. Changing self-critical talk is essentially learning to reframe the negative observations made by your ‘inner critic’ and making an active effort to soften the self-critical voice with compassion rather than judgment. This exercise should be practiced over several weeks with the goal of changing how you relate to yourself in the long-term.
- How would you treat a friend? – People are often more critical about the difficult times they encounter than they would be if a friend was going through the same struggles. This exercise encourages you to think differently about how you treat yourself during bad times. Are you kind and gentle with yourself or are you harsh and critical? How would you treat a friend experiencing the same thing? If the two responses are different, what factors lead you to treat yourself so differently?
- Videos – Neff’s website provides links to a selection of videos which explain and expand upon various areas related to self-compassion. From her TEDx Talk on the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion to the power of self-compassion, Neff describes aspects of self-compassion in a way that is both informative and clear while emphasizing that self-compassion is a skill that can change the world.
- Research – Self-Compassion.org provides links to hundreds of self-compassion studies and publications. Areas of study include the relationship between self-compassion and body image, burnout, and fatigue, culture, resilience, and attachment among many others. Whether you have a clinical or personal interest in self-compassion, having this considerable collection of relevant studies in one place is a huge time-saver and an excellent way to learn more about self-compassion and its applications.
- Recommended Reading – You can also find an extensive list of recommended books and links to other relevant self-compassion websites, including that of fellow self-compassion specialist, Chris Germer who Neff has collaborated with on a multitude of self-compassion studies including the examination of self-compassion and psychological wellbeing in clinical practice.
- Workshops and Events – Alongside Chris Germer, Kristin Neff co-developed Mindful Self-Compassion, an 8-week workshop designed to train people to be more self-compassionate, happier, and less self-critical. The MSC course can also be taken online and through intensive 2-4 day workshops.
A Take Home Message
In a world that seems to revere self-confidence and self-assuredness, we are perhaps overlooking one of the most important skills for living a happier, more satisfying life: self-compassion.
With its innumerable benefits and growing clinical interest, the demand for assessment tools designed to explore and measure self-compassion and other related psychological processes is unsurprising.
The self-compassion assessment tools discussed in this article can provide meaningful information concerning clients, research subjects, and yourself.
Whether they are designed to test self-compassion or other related constructs, the data collated from such self-report measures is often invaluable and the first step to understanding that we are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world – and that’s OK.
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